ORONO, Maine — An Old Town police officer who broke his ankle while trying to arrest someone at a huge party at The Grove is suing to be compensated for medical bills and lost wages.
Old Town police Officer Justin Angelo filed the civil lawsuit Wednesday against Campus Crest in Orono, which owns and operates The Grove, the largest off-campus student housing complex with room to house up to 620 students.
On Sept. 6, 2014, the first Saturday night of the fall semester, police from as far as Hampden were called to The Grove to help Orono police disperse a loud party with about 300 to 400 people in attendance, many of them University of Maine students.
When Angelo arrived, he “discovered a large, unruly crowd of young people” who were “uncooperative, and many were apparently intoxicated,” the lawsuit states.
“Law enforcement personnel at the scene attempted to disperse the crowd, however, the crowd was generally not compliant,” Angelo’s lawsuit states. “After a final dispersal warning was given by the police supervisor in charge, and a reasonable amount of time had elapsed, the decision was made to start arresting those who were not following the order to disperse and proceed inside.”
Three people were arrested. When Angelo and another officer were arresting one of the people at the party, “a struggle ensued” and the officer lost his balance.
“He fell and severely injured his ankle,” the lawsuit states.
Angelo “suffered a displaced fracture of the right ankle which had to be repaired by an [open reduction internal fixation] procedure.” The surgery took place on Sept. 24, 2014.
His medical bills amounted to more than $19,000 and the lost wages from being out of work for nine weeks and then returning to light duty for three months amount to another $15,000, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit claims that Campus Crest was negligent because they didn’t have the appropriate police presence or adequate private security for such a large gathering, and because they didn’t have rules established to ensure large parties didn’t occur and to prohibit drinking outside the apartments.
Alex Eyssen, vice president of North Carolina-based Campus Crest Communities Inc., said Friday that the company has seen the lawsuit.
“We are aware of the matter, and I cannot make any comment,” Eyssen said.
A similar large party took place at the complex when it opened in 2012.
A town ordinance was written to enable the recovery of costs for calling in out-of-town help and other expenses. According to the ordinance, the town can charge “the salaries of the responding officers, at their hourly rate, for the amount of time actually spent in responding to or remaining at the large event; appropriate overhead; the actual cost of any medical treatment to injured officers; and the cost of repairing any damaged town equipment or property.”
The Grove paid Orono “just over $1,600 for the response” to the Sept. 6 party where Angelo was injured, and was billed $737.37 for another party on April 29, according to Orono police Chief Josh Ewing.